The Power of the Dog – Review

Rating: 12
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Thomasin McKenzie
Written by Steven Knight
Length: 116mins

Available now both in cinemas and on Netflix, Jane Campion’s latest feature film has an impressive amount of awards buzz around it already – and for good reason. The Kiwi director has shown time and again that her films aren’t to be taken lightly, and once again, ‘Power of the Dog’ delivers an incredible story which is both deeply complex, and yet deceptively simple.

The film features a brilliant cast all at the top of their game. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers the captivating and cruel character of Phil Burbank, a ranch owner who has his own small army of followers amongst his workers. Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons also match each other’s energies excellently, allowing their on-screen relationship to rise and fall completely naturally throughout the film’s runtime. Perhaps the highlight of the film when it comes to the acting, however, would have to be Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon, a seemingly unemotional aspiring doctor who simply wants to see his Mother happy. The perfect poker face, Smit-McPhee appears to know exactly when to reveal a truth, and what to hide for later in the story, maintaining a measured and cold outlook throughout.

Jonny Greenwood delivers an incredible score which heightens the tension and intrigue of the storyline through his use of music. Benedict Cumberbatch’s character of Burbank demonstrates his abilities as a banjo player on multiple occasions, and even goes as far as to use the instrument to mock others and establish his power over them. As a result of this, Greenwood’s decision to incorporate similar sounding stringed instruments into the soundtrack unconsciously reinforces Burbank’s status as the all-seeing, all-hearing ruler of the land, and it’s this small detail, amongst many others, that have lead to the Radiohead guitarist being considered a modern master when it comes to composition.

Bringing her love of natural landscapes across from previous works such as ‘Top of the Lake’, Jane Campion proves once again that the setting of a film can be a character entirely of itself. For her latest project, Campion makes frequent reference through Ari Wegner’s beautiful cinematography to the vast and yet inescapable mountains which surround the ranch which comprises most of the film’s backdrop. The Montanan setting plays a great variety of roles within the film, at times as an escape for some characters, whilst also being shown as a threat to those unequipped to deal with its treacherous pathways. Furthermore, there’s also a brilliantly written scene in which two previously contrasting characters solidify a strong bond after they realise that their perceptions of the landscape are the same, and yet so different from everyone else’s. Through her depiction of rolling hills and river streams, the director develops a complex and mysterious character out of the setting alone.

‘The Power of the Dog’ is an incredible film and definitely one worth seeing. Any opportunity to go and see it at the cinema should definitely be taken, but if not a watch on Netflix is absolutely worth it too.

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